Dell is “mining” computers for gold to make jewelry

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The gold in the jewelry that Nikki Reed and her fashion company Bayou with Love makes is has an unusual origin story.

It’s recycled from computer motherboards. The Circular Collection is a collaboration between the computer-maker Dell and Reed, who is also an actress.

Here’s how it’s made: Consumers donate used computers—any brand—to Dell’s partner Goodwill. Those computers that still work will be refurbished and sold. Those that are irreparable are taken apart and recycled at Dell’s partner Wistron Green Tech.

As part of the process, motherboards are “mined” for gold, which is then turned into gold bars. The gold is either used in new Dell computers, or jewelry.

It takes about six motherboards to produce enough gold to make a ring, according to Dell. And the complete process can take months, because it’s not efficient to run small batches.

“The environmental footprint would actually be higher because you’d use more energy and more water to do a small batch compared with a large batch,” says Scott O’Connell, the director of environmental affairs at Dell.

Dell says on average, the company uses about 7,000 pounds of gold in its products every year. Similarly, Apple claims it recovered 2,204 lbs of gold (worth about $43 million) in 2015, though most of it was from non-Apple products and most of the recycling is done by third parties.

Dell says it has been recycling e-waste since 2008, including plastic and carbon fiber. This is the first time it had recycled gold and used it directly in new products. O’Connell says the plan is to scale the volume of the program and expand it globally.